Regular Article

Acta Biotheoretica

, Volume 59, Issue 2, pp 185-200

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Wild Animals in Our Backyard. A Contextual Approach to the Intrinsic Value of Animals

  • Jac. A. A. SwartAffiliated withFaculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Science and Society Group (SSG), Energy and Sustainability Research Institute Groningen (ESRIG), University of Groningen Email author 
  • , Jozef KeulartzAffiliated withApplied Philosophy Group, Wageningen UniversityInstitute for Science, Innovation and Society, Radboud University


As a reflection on recent debates on the value of wild animals we examine the question of the intrinsic value of wild animals in both natural and man-made surroundings. We examine the concepts being wild and domesticated. In our approach we consider animals as dependent on their environment, whether it is a human or a natural environment. Stressing this dependence we argue that a distinction can be made between three different interpretations of a wild animal’s intrinsic value: a species-specific, a naturalistic, and an individualistic interpretation. According to the species-specific approach, the animal is primarily considered as a member of its species; according to the naturalistic interpretation, the animal is seen as dependent on the natural environment; and according to the individualistic approach, the animal is seen in terms of its relationship to humans. In our opinion, the species-specific interpretation, which is the current dominant view, should be supplemented—but not replaced by—naturalistic and individualistic interpretations, which focus attention on the relationship of the animal to the natural and human environments, respectively. Which of these three interpretations is the most suitable in a given case depends on the circumstances and the opportunity for the animal to grow and develop according to its nature and capabilities.


Intrinsic value Wild animals Domestication Specific and non-specific care Capabilities